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Union is One of LA Weekly’s 99 Essentials!

February 19, 2016

Thank you LA Weekly for putting us right at the top of your list! You can see their write up on Union below or read the entire feature at their link here.


This year’s list has greater turnover than we’ve seen in recent years — and some surprises

This past December, in the midst of the four-month flurry of eating and parsing and thinking and writing that precedes our annual 99 Essentials issue, I stopped in for a quick bite at Girasol in Studio City. The restaurant has never been on the list, seeming not quite up to the distinction when I reviewed it back in 2013, but I kept hearing great things about the food from other eaters I respect, so I stopped by, sat at the bar and ordered a plate of hamachi crudo. And, man, that crudo blew my socks off. A wild sorrel broth that pooled around it was touched with white fir and finger lime and tasted like nothing I’d eaten all year. With a schedule that includes three meals out on regular weeks and up to nine per week during 99 Essentials research, that’s saying something. Chef C.J. Jacobsen’s dish was so bright, so new, so refined — and in that moment his restaurant earned its move from the “maybe” to the “definitely” column.

It’s moments like this that make the planning and research for 99 Essentials, which this year I shared with L.A. Weekly food editor Garrett Snyder, such a pleasure. Each year we get to rediscover L.A., return to the places that make this city a joy for food lovers, discover new flavors and chefs and taqueros, and catch up with chefs and restaurants that have new and exciting things to offer. The scenario above happened in some form or another at so many places around town: A quick bite revealed more than I’d been hoping for. Of course, these discoveries present their own set of issues. In any given year, there are never enough closures among the previous year’s 99 to make room for all the new entries we’d like to include. This year — more than any in the four years since I’ve been overseeing the list — we’ve added new discoveries and places that, like Girasol, have earned their spot years after opening. Of this year’s 99 restaurants, 38 are new. This means we had to say goodbye to some long-standing honorees we love and admire and still consider essential. But the headline says 99, so 99 it is.

There are other firsts on this year’s list. It’s a the first time we’ve included a supper club, which I’m sure will be just as controversial as the first time a food truck appeared. No, it’s not a traditional restaurant. Is the food incredible? Is it essential to L.A.’s dining scene? We think so. These days, great food arrives in all kinds of formats. For 2016, we’ve broken out purveyors from Grand Central Market rather than having an entry for the market as a whole; we adore the market and all it stands for, but we think certain folks deserve individual recognition.

We’ve left Mozza, however, as a conglomerate, encompassing all three of Nancy Silverton’s restaurants on the corner of Melrose and Highland. Yeah, yeah, we know it’s a copout. Maybe next year we’ll break them out, too. There were a lot of places and things on this year’s list we couldn’t bear to let go of, especially after experiencing them again. Who could imagine L.A. without a Langer’s pastrami sandwich? How would we live without Ricky’s Fish Tacos? Is Animal any less delicious than it was last year? (It is not.) Some things are just tried and true, and the 99 Essentials celebrates those places as well.

We hope you find the 99 Essentials as inspiring as we did while putting them together. Here’s to all those moments — at tables and at bars and at food stands and in supper clubs across the city — when that plate of food arrives and practically knocks you off your chair. We hope we can help bring more of those moments into your life. —Besha Rodell



(Spaghetti Alla Chitarra photo by: Anne Fishbein)


There are few restaurants as tiny, bustling and convivial as Union, Bruce Kalman’s 2-year-old Cali-Italian restaurant in Pasadena. Large family groups commune at long tables, the babies among them happily gobbling meatballs as their parents drink interesting Italian red wines. It’s the type of place where people stop in for a quick plate of pasta and a glass of wine at the bar, a perfect first-date spot, a perfect 100th-date spot. Starters, such as a beautifully spiced cotechino sausage served with braised collard greens and a soft poached egg, are inventive but comforting above all else. The handmade pastas are the star of the show, however, from the simplest tomato sauce-dressed spaghetti chitarra to heavier ragus. This is the type of restaurant we all wish we had within walking distance of our homes: laid-back, friendly, relatively affordable and with food you could eat happily over and over again. —Besha Rodell
Read our full review.

37 E. Union St., Pasadena, 91103


“Friendsgiving” Farmers Market Trip

October 28, 2015

Our “Friendsgiving” to benefit Green Wish is coming up on November 15 and we are already gearing up. Chef Kalman recently took a trip to the South Pasadena Farmers Market to talk ingredients with his event cohorts and plan out the menu. Joining him on this field trip were Ed Begley, Jr., Raphael Sbarge, Sharon Lawrence and Scott Harris. Please enjoy lot of great pics from their trip below.

“Friendsgiving” is happening at Union on 11/15 and seats are limited. Reserve your tickets today by contacting Jules@kphospitalitygroup.com.









































Bon Appetit Talks Pop-Ups

April 6, 2015

Tonight on Bravo’s ‘Best New Restaurant’

March 18, 2015

Have you guys been watching ‘Best New Restaurant’? Quick recap if you’ve missed it. Last week we battled against The Pines, another great farm to table restaurant from Brooklyn, NY. In tonight’s episode Tom Colicchio will decide which 4 of the winning 8 restaurants will move on to the semi finals. Continue reading…

Zagat Names Union “Best Small Plate”

December 4, 2014

Zagat gave us a really nice shout out as one of their favorite small plate restaurants in LA. We’re thankful for the recognition and you can see their full list at this link. Want to make up your own mind? Set up a reservation today by going to www.opentable.com or by calling us at 626-795-5841.

Meet the Restaurants – “Best New Restaurant”

December 3, 2014

BRAVO’s new show “Best New Restaurant“, starring Tom Colicchio, has release the official list of restaurants that will be featured for this, their first season. Let’s hope these restaurants have their food safety certificate up to date for the show since it could make or break their business. Pretty much every industry is competitive, as there are many people who like to make a name for themselves with their own companies. With this being said, it is not impossible to succeed in the catering world. Through sites like https://restaurantpossystems.com/toast-pos-reviews/, you’re able to find the best tools on the market to keep your business and your customers happy.
If you love dining out make sure you don’t miss out on restaurant coupons to help you save. The show airs January 21st and we can’t wait. But until then, please enjoy the line-up! Continue reading…

BRAVO’s “Best New Restaurant”

December 2, 2014

Union is one of the 16 featured restaurants on BRAVO’s newest show, “Best New Restaurant“. As part of this unique opportunity, we sent our entire team to New York to participate in a restaurant wide effort to prove that we are, in fact, the best new restaurant. The network has started airing promos for the show which will premiere Wednesday, January 21 at 10p ET/PT. Until then, please enjoy the teaser.

From BRAVOTV.com

Bravo Media is warming up winter with the new culinary competition series Best New Restaurant, premiering Wednesday, January 21 at 10p ET/PT.

In our newest food competition series, acclaimed chef and restaurateur Tom Colicchio dines across the U.S. as host, judge, and executive producer, taking a look at the food world from a fresh direction: the restaurant. The series is also executive produced by restaurateur and TV personality Gordon Ramsay.

The majority of the series takes place on location in the restaurants themselves to highlight each establishment’s unique point of view. In the end, only one will be crowned Best New Restaurant and win an editorial feature in Bon Appétit, a featured spot at America’s number one global food festival, Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appétit 2015, and $100,000.

Click here for all the scoop on the restaurants that are competing.

Joining Tom on this gastronomic journey across the country are culinary experts Maggie Nemser (CEO & Editor-in-Chief, BlackboardEats) and Jeffrey Zurofsky (Co-founder & Partner, ’wichcraft), who will offer their unique and diverse opinions to help guide Tom in his final decisions. The team will evaluate each restaurant on not only the dishes that are served, but also everything from décor to hospitality to overall concept and general management (for example are they utilising software like https://restaurantaccountingservices.com/solutions/restaurant-payroll/).

The 16 restaurants hail from four cities including New York City, Los Angeles, Austin and Miami, and were chosen to compete based on an extensive search in conjunction with the editors at Bon Appétit as well as executive producers Tom Colicchio and Gordon Ramsay.

In the first round of competition, the restaurants are divided into pairs based around a common theme reflected in their concepts or culinary influences. All are challenged to the same three tasks testing their overall performance, the strength of their staff, and the clarity of their concept. First, the restaurants are subjected to a “Pressure Test,” in which 30 hungry diners descend on the restaurants without notice to see how the businesses handle the stress of a packed house. Each restaurant also has to come up with its own resturant lto to ensure customers visit.

Next, Tom sends in two “Undercover Diners” wired with hidden cameras in order to get a patron’s perspective when the restaurants do not know they are being judged. Finally, the two paired-up restaurants come together in a neutral location and serve dinner for 30 VIP diners. At the end of each of the first eight episodes, Tom declares one restaurant the victor, and the establishments move on to the semifinals. The contenders will certainly need to find a system to manage restaurant inventory in order to stay organised under pressure!

The semifinal rounds will feature the restaurants battling in two groups to open a pop-up restaurant based around what the eateries see as the next evolution of their current concepts. The grand finale pits the final two restaurants against each other in a head-to-head contest to put forward their best service possible for a group of 50 VIP diners at Tom’s restaurant Riverpark in New York City.

*Special Holiday Dinner at Union*

December 1, 2014

This year, you can reserve a seat for Chef Kalman’s very special feast of 7 fishes. This is a one time event that is not to be missed. Email us at Unionspecialevents@gmail.com or call Union at 626-795-5841 to secure a spot at what promises to be a very merry holiday treat. Details after the jump. Continue reading…

Union closed for Thanksgiving

November 26, 2014

Union Restaurant will be closed for Thanksgiving on Thursday, 11/27. We are celebrating with our families and hope you have a wonderful holiday. The restaurant will reopen on Friday, 11/28.

Union Talks with Mushroom Supplier, Shiitake Happens

November 17, 2014